K-pop’s title tracks might gain most of listeners’ attention, but many album tracks are worth equal spotlight. I call these “buried treasures.”
Beyond this, K-pop’s albums deliver thousands of additional tracks that settle for a more limited audience. It’s these songs that will become a part of my “battle of the b-sides” feature.
In this feature, I’ll be putting on my A&R hat and taking a listen to five randomly-selected K-pop b-sides. I’ll write a mini review for each, including a Bias List rating, and rank them from least to most favorite. The winner will join a special Bias List B-side playlist. Think of it like my own little agency, hand-selecting songs I’d like to pitch to my nonexistent artists!
In honor of all the great music Lovelyz gifted us during their seven years as a group, this battle is totally devoted to them!
Battle of the B-sides: Round Twenty-Nine
First Snow (첫눈) (2017)
First Snow is well-suited to the oncoming winter, offering a mid-tempo groove that’s as comfortable as a warm night by the fireplace. Even Lovelyz’s slower-paced music always found room for engaging melodies and beautiful performances. Kei sounds particularly nice here, but each member carries themselves well. And even though there are more dynamic tracks to be found in their discography, First Snow rewards repeated listens thanks to its charming sound. There’s even some sleigh bells toward the end!
Worry Dolls (걱정 인형) (2020)
Though many of their title tracks played up a bright, cute image, Lovelyz were just as adept at delivering more subdued, emotional material. Worry Dolls is a pop song with heft, driven by acoustic guitar but soon blossoming into a fuller arrangement that incorporates strings and piano. It’s a gorgeous track, climbing to a knockout chorus. Songs like this remind me why I’m generally so unimpressed by the “girl crush” trend. Rather than feel like a disconnected series of taunted hooks, Worry Dolls has a satisfying through-line where elements build upon each other to craft an affecting whole.
Getaway (비밀여행) (2014)
I remember when Lovelyz’s debut album was released. Being a huge Infinite fan, I was of course curious what Woollim had up their sleeve. The group’s cutesy image didn’t seem novel, but their quirky music felt like a breath of fresh air. Getaway has such an idiosyncratic sound. Its verses are playful and unpredictable, but they form around a knockout chorus that has a jazzy appeal, pulling from genres like lounge and bossa nova. I love the vintage vocal sample used throughout the track. It adds a weirdly sinister vibe, though I’m not sure if that’s the desired effect.
Lovelyz occasionally worked with Woollim-favorites Sweetune, and the results were always fantastic. Emotion is a mid-tempo synth-pop jam that moves between subdued verses and a more boisterous chorus. The melody has some definite highs, though it occasionally spins its wheels as well. Sweetune’s talent for vocal arrangement is omnipresent. They know just where to slot the girls’ tones for maximum effect. But, Emotion’s secret weapon is undoubtedly that refined synth hook that echoes each chorus.
Close To You (2019)
Five years after debut and Lovelyz were still releasing some of the best music of their career. Close To You is a total triumph, and I’m actually surprised that I never featured it as a buried treasure! Arriving courtesy of production dream team SEION and e.one, the track echoes WJSN’s brand of spacey synth pop. But, it’s buoyed by Lovelyz’s commanding vocals, which give the song a light, airy touch. The chorus punches with just enough force to make a mark as the melody blossoms. The girls are very much in their element, and it’s a treat to hear.
Fifth: Lovelyz – First Snow
Fourth: Lovelyz – Emotion
Third: Lovelyz – Worry Dolls
Second: Lovelyz – Getaway
First: Lovelyz – Close To You
Congratulations to Lovelyz’s Close To You – the twenty-ninth winner of my Battle of the B-sides!
Readers, what do you think? Did you discover any hidden gems? Leave your own ranking in the comments!